I believe most of us understand by now — at least intellectually– that nobody is perfect. We know the brilliant fashion models-turned-artistic-city-revitalizing entrepreneurs with toned bodies and adorably-dressed-free-range-organically-fed children have problems too. I know they do and anyway, I’m not comparing myself to them.
I’m comparing myself to a Super-Me, an Extreme Makeover Me, the one I would certainly be if I weren’t so lazy/superior/judgy/emotional. The one I invent while I’m not exercising and not writing and not cleaning the house and not earning a paycheck and not making dinner and not staying on top of the laundry and not being on the PTO and not dressing particularly well and not keeping up on the news and not washing my hair all that often and not kicking my VERY serious Candy Crush Saga habit and not being at all chill.
Even if I could pull off the transformation and be the exact opposite of everything I berate myself for, I still wouldn’t be Perfect. You know how when they take the sugar out of food, they just add more salt or fat to compensate? We humans are the same way — subtract one set of flaws and another set replaces it. We remain imperfect. Take away my laziness for a while (not forever — I need it to be creative) and judgy fills in the empty spaces. Take away superior and I just get more emotional. I remain imperfect.
We humans are the same way — subtract one set of flaws and another set replaces it. We remain imperfect.
Perfection is not possible in me. I have to accept that because even if I could somehow become a balanced Marion Cotillard lookalike with NASA-grade math skills and an understanding of how football works (I’m pretty sure I can’t), I would lose more than all my bad habits. I would lose my essential self, the self God Himself wrote for me before I got here. Perfect isn’t something we can be in this life …we aren’t even qualified to define it.
I don’t have perfection in my character, but I do have it in my life. Once in a while, when I stop peering at my sorry self in the mirror and gaze instead out at my singular, mysterious life, I see perfection — not everywhere and not all the time, but enough to believe it’s really there.
When I was a teenager and spending my fifth or sixth summer at Camp Lake Hubert, I was allowed to swim with the horses one time off of Senior Beach. I still don’t have any idea why I was given that opportunity– I had virtually no experience with horses, either at camp or anywhere else. I was nervous being at the mercy of such an enormous, powerful animal, I felt out of control without a saddle or reins and I’m sure I wanted to cry. Maybe I did cry; I have always hated being inexperienced. Yet whenever I read stories about characters who can fly, I remember half-riding, half-floating on that horse’s back, holding his long neck as he galloped in slow motion through the water. I bet he thought he was dreaming. We both could have been dreaming. That was perfection.
When my oldest daughter was two years old, she started having seizures after her bath one December night. In the first of what would be several methods to try and stop them, she had a massive steroid shot every evening –right thigh the first night, left the second, then right, then left, alternating this way seven days a week for twelve weeks.
I held her on my lap, my husband did the shot, her brother (five years old) blew bubbles in a noble effort to distract her, her baby sister sat in her bouncy seat with a furrowed brow, and most of us cried on most nights. The shots kind of worked some of the time.
When it was over, we popped Hershey’s kisses in each other’s mouths and piled on the couch with the lights off and the fire on, watching recordings of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” or “Frosty the Snowman” on t.v. That was also perfection.
Perfection, in my view, is something given, not achieved — a divine reassurance that there are still beautiful places, quiet and safe places we can find even within the chaos and brokenness of our human experience.
Once, sometimes twice a year, my dear friend Julie and I drive up to her cabin without our husbands and kids for a weekend. Sometimes we talk the whole time, sometimes we barely say a word to each other. There have been weekends when we cooked ourselves delicious breakfasts and dinners and weekends when we subsisted solely on jellybeans and popcorn. There was an “America’s Next Top Model” marathon weekend and one devoted almost exclusively to knitting, a writing therapy weekend for me and a reading therapy weekend for her. Sometimes we speak only in Eastern-European accents and sometimes we switch from Marilyn Monroe to Hermione Granger to Julia Child. Julie allows me my tears and I allow Julie her inexplicable silences. Those weekends are perfection.
Perfection, in my view, is something given, not achieved — a divine reassurance that there are still beautiful places, quiet and safe places we can find even within the chaos and brokenness of our human experience. When I slow down and calm down enough to inhabit one of those places, God is waiting there. He puts His hand on my shoulder and whispers “I am still here, swimming with you, grieving with you, sending you my best love in the form of family and friends. Just so you know.”
I do know. Take out my need to be perfect and Perfection fills in all the empty spaces.